The woman who owns this home told me that she decided to take up lawn replacement design on her own. She said she had no art training of any kind, so I have begun to think of her as a self-taught primitive landscape designer, a kind of “Grandma Moses of lawn replacement”.
The design of this front garden breaks almost every rule of conventional garden design.
The result is astonishing. Unlike anything else in the staid, quiet Madison Heights neighborhood of Pasadena. And I love the whimsy of it all!
Originally the Descanso Gardens was an estate where camellias and roses were grown commercially. The owners back then, Mr. and Mrs. Boddy, also replanted California oak trees after a wildfire burned through the property decades ago. Today we have to thank them for one of the most beautiful gardens in Southern California, now part of the Los Angeles Park system.
Camellia trees still thrive as understory trees beneath the oaks. Roses from around the world still bloom in summer although they are gradually being replaced with more drought-tolerant plants. A garden of lilacs suitable for hot climates has been added, as has a Japanese garden. And more.
Here are a few photos from my Sunday walk around the garden.
After years of drought the rain this winter has given renewed life to the intrepid California poppies. A block from my home the Throop Church’s water-wise landscape is filled with brilliant orange blossoms. Poppies are also in bloom at Descanso and Arlington Gardens.
The ‘poppy monitors’ at the California Poppy Reserve in the high desert, however, have reported that the bloom has not started there and may not be all that opulent this year. On the other hand, they have announced that the desert bloom near Anza Borrego is already amazing!
Decades ago–say, back in the 1970s and 1980s–the Brazilian Jacaranda trees planted all over Los Angeles bloomed in early June. In recent years the trees have begun to bloom earlier. Climate change maybe?
In Pasadena Jacarandas planted along Del Mar boulevard are now in bloom. This year, however, the blooms seem a bit sparse. I suspect the drought is to blame for this. There are tight regulations about irrigating plants and trees in Pasadena.
To come to see them in Pasadena via the Metro, exit at the Del Mar Gold Line station and turn left on Raymond. Turn left again at the first corner and you’ll be on Del Mar with a mile of blooming Jacaranda ahead of you.
La Grande Orange, a restaurant at the Del Mar station, is one of my favorites. Good food. Asked to be seated on the covered patio.
As storms sweep into the West Coast the Los Angeles River has become at times a raging flood of water racing to the Long Beach harbor. But most of the year the river channel would be bone dry were it not for the treated sewage water from the Donald Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys that is dumped into the river. Other water treatment plants across the valley also pour their water into the river.
Yes. That means the water carrying you down river in kayaks in summer is treated sewage from homes and businesses across the San Fernando Valley. And the water that went into those homes probably came either from the Colorado River or via the California Aqueduct from the Sacramento River in Northern California. Water is peripatetic in California! But I digress…
The Tillman Water Treatment Plant is also home to the beautiful SuihoEn water garden designed by Koichi Kawana. The photos in this post were taken in Spring, but with the increasing interest in the river it seemed like a good time to show the water garden. It’s located at 6100 Woodley Ave. in Van Nuys in the Sepulveda Basin, by the way, and part of the water outflow goes into Lake Balboa.
While the garden is quite beautiful, there is a faint but distinct smell of sewage. Entry fee of $5 for adults, $3 for kids and seniors.
I went to the Getty Center yesterday to see an exhibition of the photography of Ishiuchi Miyako. No photography is allowed in their galleries, so you will have to rely on my opinion that the exhibition is definitely worth the trip. And don’t miss the Edible Moment show in the Research Institute to see an actual sugar sculpture.
At the Getty in November, I thought, there would be few tourists. Well, it must be school break time in Japan. There were hundreds and hundreds of Japanese teenagers around, most of them looking as bored as teenagers do everywhere.
Aside from the students, the tourist numbers were few–to the extent that the Terrace Cafe overlooking the gardens was closed.
As I was nearly done writing my new novel, Finding Mr. Yes, I began to read reports that notable architect Frank Gehry had been hired by an organization I’d never heard of to design plans to revitalize the Los Angeles River. What!!??! I had already written several scenes set along the trails and pathways by the river and was alarmed to think that the man who designed Disney Hall was going to put his imprint on the 51 mile long river. And I wasn’t the only one alarmed by this.
Then there was this organization that almost all Los Angeles area residents, including me, had never heard of. What the heck is the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp.? Well, it turns out that it is a public-private non-profit group that now has deep deep pockets: the federal government has granted the City of Los Angeles a billion dollars toward restoring the river and this “non-profit” appears to be the beneficiary of the money. As the L.A. Times has reported this is controversial. It also appears that the Friends of the Los Angeles River, a grassroots organization which has sponsored riverside clean-ups and championed river bank restoration and trails for years and years, has been squeezed out of the picture. The Revitalization Corp is now busy holding events–no doubt paid for with the federal tax dollars–in what appears to be an attempt to create “grass roots.”
Sadly, a real estate rush is on. Speculators are buying up property along the river and prices for tiny homes and highly polluted lots are skyrocketing. I shudder to think of what the riverside will be like with MacDonald’s and Starbucks and million dollar condos and who knows what else lining the banks. Perhaps the scariest real estate venture is a plan to buy an old, 40 acre train yard and use it for housing for Olympians if L.A. gets the 2024 Olympics. I wouldn’t walk across that land wearing anything less than a hazmat suit. It is highly polluted and filled with toxins!
On the other hand, Mother Nature has her ways. I remember one El Nino year when we were living in Studio City three blocks from the river. One storm brought so much rain that the river overflowed its concrete banks and our front yard was flooded. We were spared but there was a lot of damage closer to the river.
Anyway… Here are some photos of the Los Angeles River. I had intended to post photos about the CicLAvia going on in downtown L.A. today, celebrating the 5 Year anniversary of the event, but it is raining. Here comes El Nino!